My air mattress is all but dead. I know what you are thinking. "You have an air mattress? Aren't we a little princess."
It is an inch or so thick and weighs maybe a pound. It is no great luxury. It provides me with just enough padding to sleep on the hardest of ground. Not comfortably, you understand. I can still feel every sharp rock. But less so, provided I wake every two hours and blow the thing back up.
It is riddled with holes. It leaks like a sieve. I've duck-taped it where I can. But it has now suffered internal damage. It is sputtering like hot grease. The foam inside is separating. It has developed an unsightly bulge. Which is growing and throbbing like the worst kind of blister, a kind of B-movie horror.
I'll miss it when it blows. I'll replace it when I can. There is some irony here. Tonight I am sleeping on very soft ground. I could have made do without it. But I thought I might need it as a floatation device. I'm in a sort of a swamp.
Sort of swamp, hell. I'm camped in a swamp. It is fairly dry at the moment. But it is still fairly spongy. You will sink eight inches if you stand in one spot for too long. I figured I'd be fine if I'm lying down. I am shaped more or less like a snow shoe. And if I sink, so be it. It's been nice knowing you all.
I've just stepped out for my evening pee. It is a trippy place. With cypress trees, their roots exposed. I hope the gators have gone. And the snakes. And the bears. And the zombies. There's a graveyard right next door.
Some twenty yards off. It is higher up. Between us is a retaining wall. Maybe six feet high. Which means there are coffins on the about same level as my head.
May we all rest in peace. I am not afraid. I have more worldly fears. Of gators and snakes, my own future and old women with really long hair. I get a little nervous around vending machines or whenever I hear a phone ring. I used to be rather frightened of Christians but I'm getting used to them.
There are dozens of them in America, a lot more than I'd dared suspect. There are also a lot more pot smokers and people who have been in jail. I've even met pot-smoking Christian ex-cons. Dozens of them, I swear. I've only seen one gator and it was dead. I have not seen a snake for weeks. The bear I met was not very big. The meanest dogs tend to be leashed.
I was just a bit slow leaving home this morning. I was still on the road by eight. It took me a while to find my way out of the woods. That happens to me all the time. But here I was camping in the middle town. My woods were not very big. A wrong turn and I'd wind up in someone's backyard. They'd think hobos were falling from the sky. And turn the dog or the hose on me. Or call me hurtful names.
There was a hill between me and downtown. I breakfasted at the hotel. An ancient place, the Hotel Defuniak, a remnant from the Chautauqua days. I was hoping for a Waffle House. It was the only place open.
There were table cloths and fancy folk. I caught my reflection on the way in the door. And turned around to save them the trouble of sicking their bouncer on me. But I was awfully hungry; I girded my loins, if you will excuse that expression.
It was a pretty place. Their coffee was great. Their food was beautiful. And not too much more expensive than my usual fare, but it was not nearly as filling. Fancy people don't eat biscuits and gravy. Fancy people are cheating themselves.
I lingered a while in Defuniak Springs. I ambled down to the lake. Which sits more or less in the center of town. You can see what it used to be. Back when people were flocking there to study their Bibles and swim.
It is still very nice, well-maintained. There is a large ampitheatre. And remnants of their Brotherhood Hall and one very impressive church. The old station has been restored. There's a path around the lake. And a number of old Victorian homes which I was too lazy to see.
Instead I stopped at the book store to jaw at the people there. They were John, an artist with long grey hair, and LIZ who runs the place. Defuniak Springs is a place out of time. It is home to artists and writers. And rich businessmen who no longer care. I quite liked the place. It reminded me of Lake View, Iowa, but it is probably warmer in the winter.
I was well off my schedule by the time I left there. I didn't give a damn. It was a perfectly beautiful day, a good day to take your time. My road took off up and over hills, through the scented pines. Maintained, I guess, by a timber company. They used to make turpentine here. You could see bald spots between the trees. Still it was awfully pleasant. The road was smooth and traffic was light. Most people prefer the freeway.
I stopped a few times to stare at the trees. They went on forever. And to enjoy the gladness in my heart. That, I'm afraid, was finite. I was getting hungry again. I needed to get myself fed.
I hiked up the road to Ponce De Leon. Google said nice things about Sally's. A vast place in a pink quonset hut. Sally's? though, was closed. I wound up at a BBQ place just up the road. I was too hungry to read a menu. And ordered blind and wound up paying a little more than I meant to.
What did you have for lunch, James? Meat. Meat is expensive.
I had pie too and a tub of cole slaw. A boy has got to keep fed. But that will be my last BBQ for a while. I look forward to being a vegetarian again.
Man, I was stuffed. The weather had cooled. I ambled on up the road. In not the same glorious mood I had been in, but I still felt pretty good. Florida is an awfully nice place. I'm seeing some farms again. I was in my tent after eighteen short miles. I'll try to do better tomorrow.
AT A CONVENIENCE store I met a cop. And his young deputy. Who was, I swear, maybe ten years old and in full uniform. With his radio handset pinned to his shoulder and a Bat utility belt. Complete with sidearm. It looked real. "That's just sick," said the lady behind the counter.
DACHSHUNDS just hate me. I don't know why, the evil little Nazis. I have yet to meet a beagle who didn't greet me like a long lost friend. I'm more afraid of the beagles; it breaks my heart to tell them they can't come along.
DEFUNIAK SPRINGS used to have separate sidewalks for white people and black people. But now they all share. There weren't really enough black people to justify the expense.